For years now my various business have given a lot back to the community, through charity donations, events and pro-bona work etc, but one area that we’ve been doing the longest is Community Grid Computing.
When I ran our data centre under Crosby Communications (year 2000), we donated excess computing cycles to different community projects during off-peak periods, and over the years instead of throwing away computers just because faster ones are available, they get re-purposed into joining our army of “always on” machines, committed for the rest of their lives into helping to find a cure for diseases while proving free heat for our office!
My business Telecoms Cloud is working in partnership with The World Community Grid to donate spare computing cycles to provide scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research into treatment and cures for Cancer, AIDS and Muscular Dystrophy, and the Fight Against Malaria.
Settting Up A Community Grid
What we did was simply wipe any old machines we had (many rooms of them), installed Ubunbtu Linux and the World Community Grid package. We’ve filled our spare space with them and connected them to our 1GB Internet connection, so its really quite simple. We’ve also set-up a lot of our current machines that are used in the production environment to do work on the grid, but this only happens during off-peak periods of periods of non-use (for example when you have hot standby machines running but not being used until there is an outage)
After experimenting with renewable technology and learning first hand about energy (we created the UK first carbon neutral data centre in 2001), We’ve installed solar PV at one of our sites and installed a large battery bank to store excess energy. This means that 75% of the power used by the machines designated for the World Community Grid is currently being generated by renewable energy.
How it Works – Introducing World Community Grid
World Community Grid enables anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet to donate their unused computing power to advance cutting-edge scientific research on topics related to health, poverty and sustainability. Through the contributions of over 650,000 individuals and 460 organizations, World Community Grid has supported 24 research projects to date, including searches for more effective treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases. Other projects are looking for low-cost water filtration systems and new materials for capturing solar energy efficiently.
Imagine being faced with millions of compounds and believing that somewhere amongst them perhaps in just one tiny molecule is the key to disabling HIV. It would be a bit like hunting for a needle in a haystack.
A research scientist might devote years to tirelessly examining compounds one by one using traditional laboratory techniques before getting close to a breakthrough. That’s an expensive and time-consuming process.
Computer modeling can significantly accelerate her task by systematically identifying only the most promising candidates for lab testing a more accurate method of predicting outcomes than she could manage alone. But this requires dedicated access to expensive supercomputers, which she’s unlikely to have.
Instead, she could partner with World Community Grid and break her big task down into millions of smaller questions each of which could be answered independently by a single volunteer’s device.That way, our scientist would get closer to developing that lifesaving new drug in a fraction of the time traditional techniques would have allowed.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who pioneered the very computational chemistry techniques used by World Community Grid. Computers have ushered in an exciting new age for research one in which scientists can dare to think big.
World Community Grid enables scientists to up their game by breaking an overwhelming research problem into millions of tiny tasks. Each task is sent off separately and tackled by a volunteer’s device.
Volunteers like Telecoms Cloud download a small research assignment from World Community Grid when it has spare capacity to do more work like when you’re checking your email, reading a document or taking a break.
The device feeds the answers back to World Community Grid, which passes them on to researchers. The researchers analyse the data for patterns, draw insights and share their findings with the scientific community.
World Community Grid is the largest volunteer computing initiative devoted to humanitarian science, rivalling the power of the world’s largest supercomputers.
By harnessing power from so many devices around the world, World Community Grid accelerates research that would otherwise have taken years, decades, even into months. At a time when research funding has become scarce, this means scientists are able to tackle projects they might once never have dreamed of attempting.
On the cusp of current trends
World Community Grid operates at the intersection of three trends that are transforming the way scientific research is conducted:
Computational chemistry: research conducted on World Community Grid is based on cutting-edge computational chemistry techniques that scientists use to conduct computer-based simulations and experiments. This significantly accelerates research, allowing scientists to tackle ambitious projects that were previously unfeasible.
The scientists who established this field were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013. The Nobel Prize Committee stated: “Today the computer is just as important a tool for chemists as the test tube. Simulations are so realistic that they predict the outcome of traditional experiments.”
Open science: there is an international movement towards open access to research techniques and results, with the aim of increasing collaboration and accelerating scientific discovery. World Community Grid has supported open science from its inception in 2004, requiring that all research data generated on World Community Grid be published in the public domain.
Citizen science: people around the world are eager to understand and take part in scientific discovery by actively supporting professional scientists. World Community Grid is a platform for citizen science: over 650,000 people from 80 countries and 460 organizations have contributed the computing power of 2.3 million computers, smartphones and tablets to complete over 1.5 billion scientific calculations
Introducting just some of the fleet…